Water and Society


On this water planet, water plays a very important role in society. Humans cannot exist without water since it forms our landscape and is also essential for the production of crops. However, when different users and goals meet, water becomes a source of conflict and inequality. The management of water supply has been an issue for human communities ever since the appearance of the first, settled farming communities 10 000 years ago. UN-Water announced that by 2025, almost one-fifth of the global population is likely to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity while two-thirds of the population will most probably live under conditions of water stress. When it comes to water and society, there are different factors and aspects to consider including:

Water governance, policy and law

Water management refers to the political, social, economic and administrative systems that influence the use and management of water. It's commonly about who gets water, when, how, and who has the right to get water, and the benefits that come with the services provided with water. A set of social institutions, rules and institutions that shape the way we use, manage and protect our environment and the rules around our water and natural resources. These deployments involve multiple stakeholders and multiple actors working across multiple domains. Managing water and the environment influences how well-functioning communities and sustainable futures are created.

Water identification and culture

Culture directly affects how water is valued, derived and used. They include lifestyles, value systems, traditions and beliefs. Water is present in everyday life. Almost all cultures developed around water. Tribes settled on the coast or along a body of water and the cities began at the confluence of a river. In the world, people's thoughts about themselves and their waters are not limited to national identities but include diverse ecoregions that cross national borders. Thus, today's identity that water is an essential component is international and can reflect a broader cultural realm.

Water also plays an important role in traditions around the world. For example, the Water Festival which is the celebration of the new year in Myanmar. Water is believed to be a way to purify the body, mind and soul. Buddhist festivals also signify a time to get rid of the misfortunes and sins of the past year and get rid of one's burdens or excesses.

Integrated water resources management

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has been defined by the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as "a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems." It helps protect the global environment, promote economic growth, sustainable agricultural development and democratic participation in governance, and lastly, it can improve human health. It aims to support national efforts to address specific water challenges, such as water scarcity, floods, drought, and access to water and sanitation.

International water cooperation

Surface and subsurface natural water flows continue beyond political boundaries. When two or more sovereign countries share a waterway that can be a river basin, lake or aquifer, it is considered an international waterway. Water management is a complex process. "Water cooperation" refers to the peaceful management and use of freshwater resources by different actors and regions at the local, national, regional and international levels. The concept of water cooperation means working together to achieve a common goal in a mutually beneficial way. Fostering opportunities for cooperation in water management can help build mutual respect, understanding and trust between countries and promote peace, security and sustainable economic development.

Water economic

As a valuable resource, water is used for economic activities such as irrigation, domestic and industrial water use, and hydropower, as well as for the provision of ecosystem services such as wetland maintenance, wildlife support, and streamflow for aquatic ecosystems. Water has been recognized as an essential economic good for use in economic activities. Water-related issues and challenges play an important role in better understanding and managing water problems, providing powerful insights and important frameworks for applying economic tools and principles. Water economics deals with problems and challenges related to water resources in institutional structures based on the economic theory of resources and the environment. In economic theory, the focus is usually on constraints and useful strategies for dealing with them.

In some areas, people, especially women, spend hours a day queuing in long lines at community water kiosks or walking to secluded places such as rivers or ponds to collect water. An estimated $260 billion is lost worldwide each year due to a lack of water and basic sanitation. Safe drinking water at home enables women and their families to explore the possibility of generating income. Instead of running to get water, they have time to earn money through sewing, farming and education. Being able to access clean water and toilet can reduce the family's health care costs which can impact household finances in a good way.


Water Cooperation I SIWI
Integrated Water Resources Management I IWA
What is Integrated Water Resources Management I UNEP
Integrated Water Resources Management I IW
Water and the economy I water.org
International Symposium on Water and Culture
Cultural values of water I UNESCO

Water and society I WUR

Written by Hnin Wut Yee San, an intern at The Water Agency.

Household Rainwater Harvesting System


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